Paddling Minnehaha Creek

May 15, 2018


Group paddling canoes on Minnehaha CreekThe late spring this year has given us a serious case of spring fever. We’ve been enjoying the warmer weather, sunshine, and hints of summer. One of our favorite parts of summer is enjoying Minnehaha Creek from the boardwalk at the Minnehaha Creek Preserve in St. Louis Park and watching the kayakers and canoeists paddle through this restored section of the creek. Did you know that in addition to the Minnehaha Creek Preserve, there are many canoe and kayak launches along the creek’s 22 mile route? We just released a new map that is full of good information about paddling the creek, what the watershed district is doing to improve the creek, and how you can help keep it clean.

Paddling the whole creek, from the headwaters at Gray’s Bay Dam to Longfellow Lagoon right before Minnehaha Falls, takes about six to nine hours depending on how fast the creek is flowing. For safety, MCWD recommends that you only paddle the creek when it’s flowing between 75 – 150 cubic feet per second (cfs). Any less than 75 cfs and you might have to portage your canoe or kayak over portions of the creek. Any more than 150 cfs and it will be difficult to navigate through fast-moving rapids and under bridges.

In addition to checking the discharge rate at the creek’s headwaters at Gray’s Bay Dam, we recommend also checking the flow at Hiawatha Avenue in south Minneapolis where the U.S. Geological Survey operates a gauge. Because the creek receives runoff from stormwater pipes along the route, the rate of flow often increases the further you get downstream of the dam.

In some stretches, the creek is narrow and winding so it’s important to know how to navigate a canoe. But if you are a less experienced paddler or if you are paddling with kids, we recommend trying out the section from Gray’s Bay Dam to St. Albans Mill in Minnetonka or the section from Lynnhurst Park to Longfellow Lagoon in Minneapolis. These sections tend to have slower flowing water and fewer rapids.

If you plan to paddle through Hopkins and St. Louis Park, keep an eye out for the Minnehaha Creek Preserve near Methodist Hospital. You’ll find wetlands, a winding creek, a publicly accessible boardwalk, and maybe even some wildlife! This area was restored by MCWD and our partners and is part of the Minnehaha Creek Greenway, a corridor of restored creek and open space that improves water quality and recreational opportunities in this highly urbanized area.

A few safety tips to keep in mind before you head out on your adventure - let someone know where you are going and when you’ll be back; check the forecast and prepare for rain even if there is just a small chance; bring a first aid kit, cellphone, drinking water, sunscreen, waterproof containers or bags for storing valuables, and also pack some quick-dry clothing (in case you tip!). Once you are on the water, be sure to scan ahead for hazards like overhanging trees, bridges, rocks, and rapids. Be prepared to portage around a couple of spots in Edina - the Browndale Dam at Browndale Avenue and the Arden Park Dam at West 54th Street.  Also, steer clear of riffles and follow the smooth water shaped like a “V” pointing downstream to avoid rocks hiding under the surface.

On your next paddling trip, share photos with us on social media, or submit them on our website. Visit our website for links to submit photos, view our new Minnehaha Creek map and see real-time creek flow information. Happy paddling!